There are many respected league observers who believe veteran OG Alan Faneca has become more of a liability than an asset in the twilight of his career, particularly in terms of pass protection.
But Cardinals assistant head coach/offensive line/running-game coordinator Russ Grimm, who previously was Faneca's line coach with the Steelers, has a much different opinion of the team's new starting left guard on an Arizona O-line that's in a state of flux.
"Twelve years in the league, and he has made nine straight Pro Bowls," Grimm said of Faneca, who was released by the Jets earlier this offseason, his distinguished résumé notwithstanding.
"He brings a work ethic that should rub off on some of the younger guys, and I think there's still a lot of fuel in the tank."
Faneca also brings obvious leadership skills to the desert, but Grimm is banking much more on his skills in the trenches, particularly as a run blocker.
"I don't think he has to lead this group," Grimm told PFW three days before the opening of the Cardinals' training camp and 11 days before a trip to Canton for his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. "Levi (Brown) is entering his fourth year. Lyle (Sendlein) is in his fourth year. Deuce (Lutui) is in his fifth year, Reggie (Wells) is in his eighth year.
"The guys that have been around me for a while know what to expect. My job is to get them in the classroom and on the same page."
That task could prove to be rather challenging, considering all the changes in the starting unit. In addition to Faneca taking over for Wells at left guard, Brown is moving from right tackle to left tackle, Wells is expected to give Lutui a serious run for his money at right guard, and third-year man Brandon Keith is the front-runner to step in for Brown at right tackle.
Interestingly, the one constant appears to be Sendlein, who rather quietly showed major improvement in 2009 after being forced to deal with a serious injury to his left shoulder the previous season that greatly limited his ability to punch.
"You don't start at Texas for four years and become the captain of the team unless you have some kind of toughness and mental attitude," Grimm said of Sendlein.
"He's not the quickest or strongest player, but Lyle gives you 100 percent all the time. And that's what I really like about him."
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